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The Recorder: some Historical Landmarks
the word recorder was gradually being superseded by the word flute, whilst on the continent the word flute had always been used, and this fact has led to much confusion amongst historians as to which instrument, the transverse flute or the recorder, was meant. If Purcell used the word flute when scoring for his operas and masques, he meant that the recorder was to be used. His opera Diocksian contains a lovely chaconne for two treble recorders in strict canon upon a ground bass. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that other composers during this part of the century meant the recorder when they used the word flute.
From about the year 1700 the transverse flute, in addition to the recorder, was becoming accepted as a member of the orchestra and, partly because of its greater range and carrying power, it gradually took the place of the recorder in orchestral works. But during this transition period, Handel and Bach, as well as less famous composers, wrote for both instruments. Bach used the recorder in a large number of Church Cantatas as well as in two of his Brandenburg Concertos, whilst Handel wrote four Sonatas for treble recorder and harpsichord in addition to those he wrote for the transverse flute.
Gradually the instruments of the orchestra increased in tone power and towards the end of the eighteenth century composers no longer wrote for the once popular gentle-voiced recorder but concentrated instead on the more powerful transverse flute.
By the end of the nineteenth century dictionaries had come to refer to the recorder as an obsolete musical instrument, as indeed it was, apart from a few instruments which had found their way into museums or into the hands of private collectors. Yet the astonishing thing today, half a century or so later, is